Felix Knuttson lives with his mum Astrid in a VW Westfalia van in Vancouver. They are part of the hidden homeless, people who become homeless but stay with other people, live in automobiles or other places they can find. In short, they aren't living on the sidewalk...yet.
Felix is desperate to keep this secret hidden from his friends at school. Astrid has issues with authority and can't keep a job held down for more than a few weeks. She resorts to shoplifting, something she tries to brush off as a necessity but it's not for Felix. For him things are as bad as they seem. The only light at the end of the tunnel is the new game show that's in town for kids. It's a trivia show and the winner will receive $25,000. That money would get Felix and his mum off the street and into a place of their own. But as the tension mounts, and the teachers and friends start to suspect something's up with Felix's living arrangements, the likelihood of Astrid not being reported to social services gets smaller and smaller.
No Fixed Address is in my opinion Susin Nielsen's best work yet. It's hilarious, sad and has a cast of amazing characters. Felix is an adorable 12 year old with a knack for trivia. He's tough yet sensitive at the same time. His mother is someone who will cause debate for a long time after you've read it. Astrid lives by her own moral code, she wants Felix to call her by her first name, she encourages him to shoplift and she doesn't expect him to follow all of societies' unspoken rules. At the same time you know from the start that she loves Felix more than anything and would jump in front of a bullet for him without hesitation. Together they make a really interesting duo. Felix's friend Winnie starts off as a know-it-all nuisance but soon grows on Felix and I found myself liking her more and more as she begins to bond with Felix and defend him throughout the latter half of the novel.
It's a book that will spark a lot of discussion about parenting, survival and how we treat those on the fringes of what we consider "normal" society.
I loved every page of it and I know our students are going to really eat this one up, can't wait to promote it to them. I recommend it for ages 11 and up!
Kasia is a house-bound teen. Suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), she can't go down the stairs without feeling completely wiped out let alone go to school, meet friends and lead an average teenage life.
She spends her days in her room, listening to podcasts and audio books, doing homework and watching the world from her window.
Across the street and number 48, she swears she sees a figure in the window of a young girl. This seems strange to Kasia because she never sees her leave the house. Then one evening a car pulls up on her street, a man exits the vehicle and drags a screaming girl into it before stepping on the pedal and driving off.
Kasia is shocked and phones the police. Across the street, she sees the shadow of the girl in the window, watching everything unfold.
The police have nothing to go on. No one else has reported a missing person and there's no other witnesses. Kasia knows there is another witness but the police tell her that a young girl doesn't live across the street.
Is Kasia losing her mind? Has she been cooped up in her room for too long?
Kasia makes a new friend when a boy named Nav and his mum move in on the street to make amends with Nav's grandmother. Nav is sympathetic to Kasia and her medical condition, when many teens her age are not. Together, Nav and Kasia try to piece together the mystery of the shadowy girl in the window next door and the abduction that Kasia swore she saw. I won't spoil the novel any further, you'll have to read it!
Peny Joelson's writing is fast paced and concise which is what I love in a YA novel. It's also informative without delving into the info-dump that many authors fall victim to. I learned a lot about ME reading this book and I never once felt like i was being dictated to. I've only met one person in my life with ME and only briefly so I was interested in learning more. The frustration that Kasia feels when people in her school don't really believe her that she suffers from a real medical condition and is just trying to get out of school is tough and I can't imagine how that feels.
Girl in the Window covers some tough issues but I wouldn't hesitate to give this to a twelve year old student at Glenthorne. I really loved it, fans of mystery thrillers and even books like Everything, Everything will be wanting to read more from Penny!
Mo needs to escape. Her mum's new boyfriend, Lloyd, is an abusive brute who has a dark past, the boy she likes, Sam, has his heart set on a new girl and life in Crongton in general can be outright dangerous.
When Lloyd goes too far and reveals a horrible secret her mum has been harbouring, Mo vows revenge.
As she gets more and more involved in the criminal element of Crongton's toughest residents, she begins to wonder how she got so deep, and if she can ever get out.
Straight Outta Crongton is a unique novel in that Wheatle has created his own rhythm and in some cases words that his characters use to describe their situations. It reminded me a lot of A Clockwork Orange in that respect. I never once felt like the language was shoe-horned in, it flows as natural as the concrete pillars in the tower blocks that line Crongton.
I really loved Mo, she's a complex character that does some deeply wrong things yet I never once stopped rooting for her throughout the entire novel. She never once stops fighting for her right to be happy and to be respected by everyone around her. She demands that her mother provide a safe place for both of them and when that doesn't happen she storms out. Mo is a fighter and I really enjoyed following her through this journey.
I would highly recommend this and the other books in Wheatles' South Crongton series, check them out!
Taran's dream is to become an MC, her and her twin brother Hari live in Firestone House, a tower block in London with a bad reputation that doesn't paint the full picture of community and togetherness that the twins know and love.
When Hari and his friend Jamal witness a horrible crime, they find themselves on the run from corrupt policemen.
Using Firestone House as their refuge, they begin to uncover the truth behind the crime they have witnessed. Now the clock is ticking to get their evidence into the right hands before they and their friends befall a horrible fate at the hands of the dirty cops.
Run, Riot is about a lot of things but it focuses a lot on gentrification. "Cleaning" up areas of a city that are viewed as unprofitable in the eyes of faceless corporations. Their goal is to bring in middle to upper class people and rid the area of those who need affordable housing. They don't care where they go as long as they aren't in the way. Firestone House is up for redevelopment and it plays a crucial role in the novel.
It's also a straight up thriller which reminded me of a movie I used to love as a teen, one called Judgement Night which takes place all in one night and sees people on the run from violent criminals.
The novel portrays the everyday distrust that many people have of authority and especially the police. The rage and anger that boils up in people who feel like they've got no one to really turn to, even in times of dire emergencies, is a constant thread throughout. It's a hard hitting theme that strikes a nerve with anyone who is living through this kind of dystopian nightmare and people who think it can't possibly be that bad but should be awoken to it.
It is in this vein that Run, Riot breathes life into its characters. They are typical teens and not so typical at the same time. They are afraid, angry, resilient and possess a strong sense of community and justice. It's a great YA novel with a lot of thrills and anger and retribution. I highly recommend it for ages 14 and up!
The Californian summer is about to descend upon Reiko and her circle of popular friends. Reiko, however, is holding onto a secret. She still speaks to her sister Mika, who died five years ago in a tragic accident. Reiko not only speaks to her, she sees her, feels her and relies on her for advice.
When she meets Seth, a troubled yet alluring boy in her school, she feels like she's met a kindred spirit. As the summer drifts on, Reiko and Seth's relationship starts to disintegrate and both teens must decide on what they want out of life. As university application deadlines approach, friendships are strained and Reiko's grip on what is real and what isn't wanes, she wonders if she's coming to a breaking point.
Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a dreamy, smart novel about loss, love, friendship and consent. The characters all have flaws, some of them major ones but that doesn't stop you from rooting for them throughout. Webber knows how to write about the teen relationships and she knows how to tug at your heartstrings.
We have teens that frequent the Library on a daily basis that are going to devour this novel, I can't wait to get it into their hands. Highly recommend it for ages 14 and up!
Xiomara Batista has to be tough. She'd rather use her fists than her words when it comes to defending herself and her twin brother, Xavier.
Under the strict rule of her fiercely Catholic mother, Xiomara writes furiously in her prized leather notebook, panting the pages with the words of her heart and soul.
When she begins to develop feelings for Aman, the danger of being with a boy she knows her mother would disapprove of is stressful yet tempting for a girl desperate to connect with someone and have her voice heard. Then Xioamara is asked to join a slam poetry event and a whirlwind of events occur, propelling her into a new phase of her life.
This is a phenomenal novel, Xiomara is a brilliant and strong lead character that defends her family and rebels against them like any teen would. Set in Harlem, the novel has a beautiful rhythm that would sit perfectly next to Sarah Crossan, Kwame Alexander and Jason Reynolds. I'm going to really enjoy getting the students in our high school turned on to this amazing novel, don't miss it!
I recommend it for ages 15 and up!
Peter Blankman suffers panic attacks. That's one thing you should know about him. He's also a maths genius. His mother is a scientist and a very important one. Peter's twin sister Bel, has always stuck up for him and looked after him.
Peter is seventeen and heavily bullied at school. His best friend at school is named Ingrid. She too suffers panic attacks and has OCD where she scrubs her knuckles raw under hot water when she's stressed.
Peter's mother, the very important scientist, is about to receive a huge award for her contributions in science. This is where things go haywire.
At the award ceremony, there's a commotion, panic and Peter's life is immediately thrust into a jet-fuelled nightmare of paranoia, espionage and some serious "Forced Vengeance" level butt kicking.
Jerome is twelve and lives in a neighbourhood where you need to be on your toes at all time.
When he's shot to death by a policeman who mistakes his toy gun for a real one, he emerges as a ghost and watches helplessly as his family tries to maintain sanity after his death.
Jerome watches the preliminary hearing of the policeman who shot him and visits the policeman's' daughter, who, miraculously, can see him.
Joined by Jerome is the ghost of Emmett Till, who tells him of his horrible encounter with violent racism in America's deep south. Till helps Jerome work out why he was murdered and how he can process it and what needs to be done to make sure it stops happening. Throughout this journey, the policeman's daughter learns several valuable lessons as well.
I think Ghost Boys should be required reading in high schools around the world, infuriating, mortifying and heart-breaking, it reflects both historical and current divides regarding race in America. It's a fast, always compelling read that I cannot recommend enough.
I recommend it for ages 10 and up.
Brynn Haper only has one consistent thing in her life: Television presenter Rachel Maddow. Other than that, she's dealing with a recent breakup, an abusive stepfather and a preppy jerk destroying the democratic political process in her high school.
As a homework assignment, she writes a few emails to Rachel Maddow and is thrilled when she receives a response.
As a way to catalogue her struggles, fears and determination, Brynn writes dozens of unsent emails to Rachel Maddow, all describing a life in turmoil and pain but full of hope and grit and spirit.
When Brynn's ex and the aforementioned preppy jerk get involved in a game of high school rigged elections, Brynn takes matters into her own hands to not only expose them for what they are but to get politically involved herself.
Dear Rachel Maddow is one of the sharpest YA novels out there today. Hilarious, infuriating and lightning quick, Kisner captures the excruciating pain that the high school experience can be and that there's still plenty of hope to be found in the youth of today. I recommend it for ages 15 and up!
After Moss Jeffries' father was murdered by the Oakland police department and the crime went unpunished, he suffers anxiety and severe panic attacks.
Six years later, in high school, Moss and his friends discover that an armed policeman roams their halls and subjects them to random locker checks. When metal detectors are installed, Moss and a few of his friends decide to organise a peaceful protest in order to let the faculty know their concerns.
The protest goes horribly wrong and Moss and his new boyfriend Javier find themselves in a hellish situation with no apparent way out. In the aftermath, Moss must confront his fears and stand up for himself and those around him, putting everything he knows at risk.
This novel could very well read like a dystopian thriller to those who don't live in the shadow of a corrupt and
totalitarian system. It's a truly frightening novel with memorable characters and storyline that keeps you hooked from page one. The relationship between Moss and his mother is touching, Moss and Javier are excellent together and playoff each other nicely. As does Moss and his other friends, one of whom has a more privileged background, making her a source of occasional irritation for Moss as he navigates a world of racism and hate.
I can imagine that fans of The Hate U Give will be devouring this powerful story, can't wait to bring it to them at school!
I recommend it for ages 15 and up!